Monday, 20 October 2008

This Week In TV Year II (Week 6) Part 2

I'll be thrilled when I get this done, you know. The Illness From Out Of Space has made us feel so crappy and so woozy-headed that we're actually behind on TV watching. We've not yet seen last week's Ugly Betty or Pushing Daisies, or the premiere of Crash, opting instead, through sheer laziness, to sit through the mediocre failure that is Jan de Bont's remake of The Haunting. I mean, I've already seen it twice, so I know it's terrible, but I made Canyon sit through it anyway. What was I thinking? Anyway, let's do this thing.


Remember I said in the previous post that the Fringe lift error was Mistake of the Week? I forgot this egregious screw-up from CSI.

I'm making an effort to praise this show for its intelligence (something a lot of haters who don't watch it think it lacks), and they pull this trick. It makes me look like a chump. A chump!

Grisly Visual of the Week:

Peter did to Sylar what most viewers have been hoping would happen to Peter when he snapped the neck of his "brother" (give us a break)...

...and then we got to see him fix it. I'm sure the effect was a lot easier to do than it seems, but then the simple stuff is much more effective, sometimes. Flashes of coolness like this are all the difference between watching crap like Heroes and watching crap like Knight Rider and Torchwood, which can't even get the spectacle aspect of sci fi right.

Oh, and as for wishing harm on Peter Petrelli? Someone (Daddy Parkman?) read my thoughts.

Kill those stupid brains!

Downright Nausea-Inducing Visual of the Week:

At the start of this week's CSI, a woman is compelled by hypnosis to jump out of her apartment window to land with a crash on a passing bus. So far, so much like the opening of Lethal Weapon. However, that film didn't show a coroner trying to pick up the body afterwards.

And we were eating when it happened. Thanks, CSI.

Heartbreaking Moment of the Week:

The scene in last week's Mad Men, where Sal listens to a blast of homophobic drivel from his colleagues (including his secret crush Ken Cosgrove), was already superbly played before we get to his stoic reaction.

Bryan Batt perfectly illustrates Sal's heartbreak with a forced smirk, his eyes doing the rest. It was almost impossible to watch.

Best Appearance By A Beloved Character Actor of the Week:

Though we've not yet seen The Wire (which is a temporary arrangement now a loyal friend has bought me two seasons), we've heard great things about Andre Royo, aka Bubbles the drug addict. Having him show up in Heroes seems like a good idea for a show populated by this shower of twerps.

His power, creating deadly vortices, is supercool, Royo's performance was full-on, and his character is interesting and tragic. Hiring him is one of the first smart moves the showrunners have made this season, and I can't wait to see how it all plays out.

::sigh:: Never mind.

You Couldn't Make It Up Moment of the Week:

We're up to speed with America's Next Top Model for the first time ever, which means sitting through the catch-up episode for the odd morsel of new content. Though it might seem pointless, the catch-up episode often features a new insight into some of the contestants that either illuminates events from previous weeks (such as when did the dreary but hypercompetent model/cheese hybrid Lauren Brie turn out to be such an asshole?), or sets up arcs in the final half (the inevitable separation of BFFs Marjorie and Analeigh).

However, while the catch-up episode spent too long going over Tyra's ridiculous unfunny stunts again, it did feature the absurd sight of McKey (who really should have been sent home by now) getting upset when Elina tried to kill a bee with her hairspray, and not because Elina is a hypocrite after ranting with dogmatic vehemence at everyone about animal rights earlier in the episode. Taking the bee outside and (I'm not making this up) trying to revive it with water, McKey announces that killing a bee is the first step to becoming a serial killer. You've got to start somewhere, apparently.

Crazy knows crazy, I guess.

Smug Dope of the Week:

When Meredith stopped Claire's mom from searching for the newly gloomy immortal with this bitchface, I rubbed my hands with glee, and not just because she obviously thinks that having hands like small gas hobs make her the equal of any villain.

Unfortunately, considering how much I was looking forward to seeing her eat her words, her nemesis proved to be a puppeteer type, the kind of mind-control sleaze that crops up way too often in comics (for a while there DC was filled with Dr. Psycho cameos and Marvel kept playing with the loathsome Purple Man, which turned my stomach quite a bit).

What's even worse is that Meredith seems to have been puppetised without even singeing her foe even a little bit. Come on, Meredith, cook that bastard! Braise him! Sautee his eyes!

Unexpected Turn of Events of the Week:

Breaking from House season four tradition, we actually saw Cameron and Chase onscreen, together, at the same time, in the same room, and interacting no less! At first I thought they were only going to be shot like this, out of focus (God forbid they would share the same geometric plane)...

...but later that episode they were actually right next to each other (though with zero eye contact, as you would expect).

I would love to see the effects budget for this week, because I still can't believe they're on set together. Of course all of this sarcasm is covering for the fact that I feel really bad for Jesse Spencer and Jennifer "Captain Kirk's mom" Morrison after their break-up, but it's had the unfortunate after-effect of making watching them together very uncomfortable, as well as making me think the reason the original Cottages/Housettes got side-lined is because of tension on set. Of course, I don't know that this is indeed the case, but it does create a weird show/audience dynamic.

Frustrating Show of the Week:

We like The Mentalist, and not just because of the awesome title. We love the central idea, and Simon Baker is very watchable as Patrick Jane (no relation to Thomas "Homeless Dad" Jane). However, as I have said before, the secondary cast is not lighting our fire yet, but that's not the only problem.

At the moment we have no idea what the hell they are all doing, or where they are stationed. There was a hint that the Serious Crimes Unit, or the California Bureau of Investigation, or Brain Squad, or whatever they are called, do in fact have a base of operations, but so far they have been going from place to place, interrogating people in what look like closets full of filing cabinets. If this is a procedural, it's an ill-defined one. With a base of operations a la the lab in CSI or a precinct or anything, it would help give the show a visual shape to counteract for the loosey-goosey approach that it seems to be going for so far.

Crappy Easter Egg of the Week:

I'm not even going to look on the net for information about the Pinehearst Company, and considering how easy it is for me (or many others) to futz about looking for uninteresting crap, that's saying something.

It's fair to say I'm not even pleased that the company logo explains the odd tattoo that many of the "heroes" (pfft!) have on their bodies, though it's not exactly a shock that it represents half of the DNA spiral.

Cool Easter Eggs of the Week:

While Heroes stinks up the TV with FAILstench, Fringe, though not quite firing on all possible cylinders yet, is still promising enough that its many Easter Eggs are exciting, providing a new avenue of investigation into the show's ever-expanding list of mysteries. Strengthening the sense that the Fringeniverse is an actual place, the Massive Dynamic logo keeps cropping up in odd places.

That poster hints at some MD involvement in personal development projects such as the one created by the evil Jakob Fischer (and makes me wonder if Massive Dynamic is meant to be what the Dharma Initiative would be like if it actually got anything done, instead of spending all of its time being attacked by Richard Alpert and his band of Unmerry Men). Fischer's ads appear early on...

...and were also seen on a telegraph pole in the fourth episode. That said, the ad beneath it would surely lead to a lawsuit for discriminatory employment practices, wouldn't it?

Of course, the show's best Easter Egg is The Observer, seen here eyeballing Joseph MEEEEgar, prior to the elevator accident.

Fact Burst! The Observer is played by Michael Cerveris, who plays guitar with Bob Mould's band (meaning I might have actually seen him live that one time in Wolverhampton when he was supported by Mercury Rev), has played Sweeney Todd on Broadway (OMG we love Sondheim!), and has recorded an album with Steve "Sonic Youth" Shelley, Norman "Teenage Fanclub" Blake, Corin Tucker and Janet "Quasi" Weiss from Sleater-Kinney, and others. He is the coolest Easter Egg EVAH!

Almost Impressive Exposition of the Week:

Actually, this is a two-parter. Displaying a pleasing adherence to reality, The Mentalist used not-hypnotism to drag the truth out of some feckless, murderous surf brats who seemed to have read Donna Tartt's The Secret History prior to killing a friend. Before fooling them, our hero primes the kids with an explanation of what hypnotism is and what its limits are. It was refreshingly free from artifice.

Seems hypnotism wanted to snatch the Overused Theme spot from hallucinations, as CSI featured a thread about bank tellers handing over large sums of cash to Glenne Headly, who had hypnotised them as part of a weight loss/quit smoking program, which meant it was not only stepping on The Mentalist's toes but also Fringe's creepy mad science self-improvement plot.

Headly, upon being interrogated by Nick and Catherine, gives a long speech about what hypnotism can and can't do that was surprisingly thorough and well-researched, dismantling a lot of pre-conceptions about the technique. Sadly, our glee was dented by the final act resolution, where we discover she had hypnotised one of the bank tellers by phone and convinced her to jump off her balcony.

When Nick points out that, according to her earlier speech, a hypnotee (?) can't be made to do anything that is not in their nature, Headly darkly hints that maybe it was in their nature after all. Though the show was trying to make a point about hidden dark tendencies in her subjects (the same excuse was given for their criminal behaviour in handing over the money), it was stretching credibility to breaking point. Shame.

Frustrating-And-Cool-At-The-Same-Time Cameo of the Week:

Way back in the second season of House we were given a clue about the origin of the cranky doctor's supercrankiness upon discovering his father was R. Lee Ermey. Or at least played by him. Obviously meant to evoke memories of his stock character of abusive drill sergeant, a big blank was filled in. This week, Ermey returned to play a corpse.

Though it's frustrating to see Ermey but not get a performance out of him, the continuity nerd in me was happy to see him turn up to complete his arc. (If you're curious to see what he can do when not barking orders at cadets, hunt down his superb performance in Dead Man Walking.)

Comedy Team of the Week:

Much as most people hated the Feudal Japan thread from last season, Adam Monroe and Hiro at least had a funny chemistry that made it almost bearable. Though the third season is more fun than the second, it's possibly stupider, so I was surprised at how happy I was to see Adam reunited with his former friend, now enemy.

Their scenes together were endearingly funny and silly, especially with the wonderful Ando added to the mix. Hopefully there's much more where that came from.

::sigh:: Never mind.

Justice of the Week:

Okay, so this is over a few weeks, but this cycle of America's Next Top Model seemed to feature more objectionable small-minded catty morons than usual, with the presence of Isis bringing out record levels of hateful prejudice. Even though one rotter, Sharaun, was kicked out in the first week, I girded myself for a long period suffering the idiocy of Hannah Palin from Alaska, Brittany the Bitch, and Manly Clark. But check it out!

In a flurry of awkward contrivance that made me wonder if ANTM was quickly discarding the truly awful contestants as early as possible before lawsuits started flying, a runway challenge became an instant eject button for Hannah, whose walk was truly dreadful, though curiously it didn't have the added problem of making the designer have a meltdown about hoochy posing destroying the purity of his vision, as Samantha's equally misguided display did.

It really should have been Samantha getting kicked out, considering the vitriol aimed at her later (see below), but it was obvious Hannah had to go just for being a clueless little ninny. So off she went, with barely another mention that week, and the catch-up episode only spent a moment with her and her ha ha so hilarious Pixie Dust.

Worst contestant ever? Maybe. There was competition this year. Brittany was also godawful, picking on Elina who was dealing with family issues that completely perplexed her bitchy co-contestant, whose mom was soooooo awesome that she couldn't even imagine a mother being anything less than perfect, and OMG Elina you're so selfish for not loving your mother despite the psychological damage she caused, GOD!

When up before panel with Analeigh the Angel, I thought that, as in previous seasons, the nice but dull model wannabe was going home and the bitch would stay, as drama equals viewers. But no! Time to go home to your saintly mother, Brittany.

That was so awesome I howled with delight. There was only Clark to go, and she had suddenly seemed to be getting better, which gave strength to the theory that she would be hanging around as this season's catty standout. After coming first before panel the week before, she was especially obnoxious, but after a really terrible photoshoot, she was gone, tiara and all.

Watching a lot of these back to back really made me feel better while the evil disease ravaged my body. And then, as a bonus, Kenley didn't win Project Runway!

Of course, the fact that she was copying other designers and was in denial about it was no impediment to some more super-whiny crap from her. "It's bullshit," she said of the judges' decision, not realising that she was actually passing judgement on her own nasty behaviour. Thank you TV for punishing the wicked! Though really, it should have been Korto winning over one-trick Leanne, according to Canyon.

Troubled Couple of the Week:

Though many hate them, we're big Gil/Sara 'shippers, and midway through the latest episode of CSI Canyon began to worry that Gil's imminent departure would lead to the horribly cruel twist that he leaves too late to make a go of it with his nerdy lover.

If that happened, I would totally boycott the show. (This is a lie. Morpheus is on the way. There's no way I'm missing that.)

Internal Monologue of the Week:

"Don't mind me, Gibson. I'm just here for the meeting. I'm sure these guys won't notice that I can't drink you. Just sit there and I'll ignore you. I'm totally not staring at you."

"And that's not drool on my chin, by the way. Tum te tum te tum. Not thinking about you. Not at all. Hold on, did those guys just say they don't want to rehire me?"

"Come here, booze! BOOZE! Thank you for catching me when I fell, you beautiful liquid. I feel alive! ALIVE!"

Holy Shit Who Is This Guy? of the Week:

In a small role as Joseph Meegar, the Fringe Scientific Oddity of the Week, Ebon Moss-Bachrach knocked my socks off.

The X-Files is littered with hundreds of similar characters, their lives disrupted by unnatural occurrences. They were often forgettable, though with the odd stand-out. Moss-Bachrach's nervous energy meant that only three minutes into the episode we were rooting for him in his efforts to woo receptionist Bethany in a way we would normally reserve for a character we have been watching for months. Hopefully he will be back later in the series; I get the feeling that Fringe will be bringing back characters as and when they are needed.

Asshole of the Week:

Heroes is full of terrible villains, but terrible in the sense that they're really lame. It's doubly annoying that the showrunners are trying to artificially make good guys bad and vice versa, either with contrivance, misunderstanding, or serums that turn people into spiders. And yet, the biggest villain on TV recently was designer Jeremy Scott, who behaved like a colossal jerk on an America's Next Top Model by bitching out Samantha for being a bit too flamboyant while modelling his shitty clothes.

Dude, you look like a minicab driver pretending to be Adam Ant. Bitchiness rights are therefore forfeited. Admittedly, after watching the catch-up episode it turned out he did keep telling Samantha not to be hoochy while modelling his disastrous creation, and she didn't listen, so he had a right to be pissed, but saving it for panel just because the runway challenge was used as a convenient way to get rid of Hannah the Bigot was low class. His drubbing of her seemed to have been given to him as a consolation prize, as there's no way someone as talented as Samantha is going home yet, but it seemed like a re-run of Nigel's shitfit when CariDee was a bit too familiar with him a few seasons back. Tyra likes the idea of the show as a school for these beginner models, but having the judges bitch them out like this just makes it look like the exploitative sideshow that it really is. Leave Samantha alone! That said...

Hypocrite of the Week:

Samantha really tested my support for her by being relentlessly catty about Marjorie. Though the nervy French model-Padawan's ongoing mental breakdown and self-loathing piss me off too, Samantha's behaviour went from being arguably defensible to out-of-line with a quickness. During the catch-up episode she made a big bitchy deal about Marjorie and Analeigh's superfriendship, complaining about their adorable touchy-feeliness and seeming devotion to each other. And then we get to see what Samantha's been up to!

Bathtime with Lauren Cheese and the odious Clark! What a hypocrite! God! If she's down with lesbi-erotic events like this, I get the feeling she's jus' jellus about Marjoleigh. Is it a secret Sapphic love for either the skittish semi-European or the angelic skater? Or does she just want an awesome loyal friend of her own? Whatever the reason, I can imagine Elina is not happy that anyone else got to splash sudsy water at her beloved Clark, even though Clark is a cocky bigot and I'm glad she's gone.

I love America's Next Top Model.

Disappointment of the Week:

In an act of attempted matricide that would have improved Heroes by dozens of percent, Peter Petrelli, well on his way to becoming the evil Greaser Petrelli because he absorbed Sylar's hunger by fixing a watch just so he could something something, tried to chop the top off his annoying mom's head.

At least Pops Petrelli is played by the wonderful Robert "Alligator" Forster, which makes up for Ma Petrelli, one of my least favourite characters on TV. What is the point of her? Her allegiance changes every fucking week. I know people get annoyed at Lost for having morally ambiguous characters, but at least our perception of whether they are good and bad changes through plot, not contrivance, which accounts for the majority of the power and emotional impact of that most wonderful of shows. Heroes, on the other hand, seems to have been plotted as if by Luke Rhinehart. Next week, when she gets released from the nightmare trance she is stuck in, she'll be a volunteer fireman. The week after, a neo-Nazi. Can someone else chop her head off? Can Meredith broil her? Anyone? Please?

Dashing Blade of the Week:

Jay Manuel should dress like this all the time.

Seriously. I love his blue-rinse hair styled like this. He's like a cross between Prince Charming and a gay John Forsythe.

Ludicrous Contrivance of the Week:

Claire speaks for all of us when she calls her dad on his absurd Marvel Team-Up with the worst and most dangerous villain on Earth, even if he intends to kill him.

What's even stupider is that Sylar suddenly wants to go straight, and is getting all of the hero moments that the actual heroes should be getting. I know this season is all about muddling the loyalties of the main characters and playing with our expectations, but just clumsily switching good to bad and back again is untenable from a narrative point of view, as the changes are being done with barely any preparation. For all its faults, season two's exploration of Parkman's temptation to misuse his power was way more convincing than Sylar suddenly declaring, "I'm a good guy now!" prior to performing one of the very few acts of heroism this season by saving Claire.

And really, is this the only heroism possible on this show? Saving other heroes from their own stupidity? And then Claire changes her mind at the end of the episode and gets mad at her dad for trying to get rid of Sylar even though the psychopath ruined her life, just as she had said at the start of the episode? It's like the show is trying to fail. However, this PSA for John McCain from Hayden Panettiere helps.

She's my actual hero.

We Love Doctor Walter Bishop Moment of the Week:

As Fringe gets down to establishing its universe, Walter has receded into the background a bit, which is a little frustrating, but still, even a little Walter is better than no Walter at all.

A still image doesn't do justice to the eccentricity on display, as he rubs his besocked feet in a carpet to generate a static charge that he uses to shock Boring Peter out of his boring, sarcastic revery. Shame it wasn't deadly. Less Peter, more Walter!

Fashion Improvement of the Week:

Masticator seems to be a fan of Maya's sexxy sexxy get-ups, and I should explain that it's not that she's not an attractive superlady. I just think her fashion sense is awfully tacky, with some potentially stereotypical "Hispanic" trappings added by unimaginative showrunners that make her look like the cartoonishly tacky Hilda Suarez. I just thought she wouldn't be played like a ditzy bit of eye-candy, but that's too much to ask of Heroes. Still, this week she straightened that shit out.

Hopefully now that she has become a bit less over the top with her boob-exposing dresses and super-high-heeled sandals, she'll get to do something interesting and heroic. That would dispel all of these suspicions that the showrunners don't know what to do with her character, making her hang around just to give Suresh someone to interact with and eventually menace, when in fact there's every chance she could be a pro-active and interesting character at last.

Oh, for fuck's sake!!!!

Intensity of the Week:

There wasn't even another contender this week.

He has Intensity of the Year all sewn up already.

As is traditional, I was hoping Brian Michael Bendoom would sum up this week's TV for me, but he was too busy vomiting orange mucus into his diabolical metallic mask.

I feel you, dude.


Douglas said...

Listen, this may be a stoopid question but what channels are you watching Mad Men and other programmes (that I've not seen listed) on? Am I being very 20th Century? Is this some web based thing that I've not been informed about? Don't take the piss out of me, help me see further, let me stand on your shoulders, my giant friends.....

Admiral Neck said...

I would never take the piss out of you, my friend. It's simple; I use MAGIC! (Check your email, sir.)